The Hymn to the Aton
The Hymn to the Aton
Source archive.org/Pritchard1950ANET_201608 / archive.org/Pritchard_1950_ANET.pdf
see also zodml.org/William_Kelley_Simpson_Robert_K_Ritner.pdf
The Pharaoh Amen-hotep IV broke with the established religion of Egypt and instituted the worship of the Aton, the sun disc as the source of life. “The Amarna Revolution” attempted a distinct break with Egypt’s traditional and static ways of life in religion, politics, art, and literature. Pharaoh changed his name to Akh-en-Aton (perhaps “He Who Is Serviceable to the Aton”) and moved his capital from Thebes to Tell el-Amarna. Pharaoh’s own attitude to the god is expressed in the famous hymn which follows. Beyond doubt, the hymn shows the universality and beneficence of the creating and re-creating sun disc. A similarity of spirit and wording to the 104th Psalm has often been noted, and a direct relation between the two has been argued. 1 Because Akh-en-Aton was devoted to this god alone, the Amarna religion has been called monotheistic. This is a debatable question, and a reserved attitude would note that only Akh-en-Aton and his family worshiped the Aton, Akh-en-Aton’s courtiers worshiped Akh-en-Aton himself, and the great majority of Egyptians was ignorant of or hostile to the new faith.
This is the “long hymn” to the Aton, from the tomb of Eye at Tell el-Amarna. Akh-en-Aton’s reign was about 1380 to 1362 B.C. The best copy of the text is that of N. de G. Davies, The Roci^ Tombs of El Amarna, vi (London, 1908), PI. xxvu. Translations will be found in Erman, LAE, 288-91, and in J. H. Breasted, The Dawn of Conscience (New York, 1933), 281-86 *
Praise of Re Har-akhti, Rejoicing on the Horizon, in His Name as Shu Who Is in the Aton-disc, 2 living
forever and ever; the living great Aton who is in jubilee, lord of all that the Aton encircles, lord of
heaven, lord of earth, lord of the House of Aton in Akhet-Aton; 3 (and praise of) the King of Upper and
Lower Egypt, who lives on truth, the Lord of the Two Lands: Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re; the Son of
Re, who lives on truth, the Lord of Diadems: Akh-en-Aton, long in his lifetime; (and praise of) the Chief
Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands: Nefer-neferu-Aton Nefert-iti, living, healthy,
and youthful forever and ever; (by) the Fan-Bearer on the Right Hand of the King… Eye. He says:
Thou appearest beautifully on the horizon of heaven,
Thou living Aton, the beginning of life!
When thou art risen on the eastern horizon,
Thou hast filled every land with thy beauty.
Thou art gracious, great, glistening, and high over every land;
Thy rays encompass the lands to the limit of all that thou hast made:
As thou art Re, thou reachest to the end of them; 4
(Thou) subduest them (for) thy beloved son. 5
Though thou art far away, thy rays are on earth;
Though thou art in their faces, no one bjtows thy going.
When thou settest in the western horizon,
The land is in darkness, in the manner of death.
They sleep in a room, with heads wrapped up,
Nor sees one eye the other.
All their goods which are under their heads might be stolen,
(But) they would not perceive (it).
Every lion is come forth from his den;
All creeping things, they sting.
Darkness is a shroud, and the earth is in stillness,
For he who made them rests in his horizon. 6
At daybreak, when thou arisest on the horizon,
When thou shinest as the Aton by day,
Thou drivest away the darkness and givest thy rays.
The Two Lands are in festivity every day,
Awake and standing upon (their) feet,
For thou hast raised them up.
Washing their bodies, taking (their) clothing, (5)
Their arms are (raised) in praise at thy appearance.
All the world, they do their work/
All beasts are content with their pasturage;
Trees and plants are flourishing.
The birds which fly from their nests,
Their wings are (stretched out) in praise to thy 7.
All beasts spring upon (their) feet.
Whatever flies and alights,
They live when thou hast risen (for) them. 8
The ships are sailing north and south as well,
For every way is open at thy appearance.
The fish in the river dart before thy face;
Thy rays are in the midst of the great green sea. 9
Creator of seed in women,
Thou who makest fluid into man,
Who maintainest the son in the womb of his mother,
Who soothest him with that which stills his weeping,
Thou nurse (even) in the womb,
Who givest breath to sustain all that he has made!
When he descends from the womb to breathe
On the day when he is born,
Thou openest his mouth completely,
Thou suppliest his necessities.
When the chick in the egg speaks within the shell,
Thou givest him breath within it to maintain him.
When thou hast made him his fulfillment within the egg, to break it,
He comes forth from the egg to speak at his completed (time);
He walks upon his legs when he comes forth from it.
How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone: 10
All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.
The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou settest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned. 11
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.
Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest it forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt) 12
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.
All distant foreign countries, thou makest their life (also),
For thou hast set a Nile in heaven,
That it may descend for them and make waves upon the mountains, 13 (10)
Like the great green sea,
To water their fields in their towns. 14
How effective they are, thy plans, O lord of eternity!
The Nile in heaven, it is for the foreign peoples
And for the beasts of every desert that go upon (their) feet;
(While the true) Nile comes from the underworld for Egypt.
Thy rays suckle every meadow.
When thou risest, they live, they grow for thee.
Thou makest the seasons in order to rear all that thou hast made,
The winter to cool them,
And the heat that they may taste thee.
Thou hast made the distant sky in order to rise therein,
In order to see all that thou dost make.
Whilst thou wert alone,
Rising in thy form as the living Aton,
Appearing, shining, withdrawing or approaching,
Thou madest millions of forms of thyself alone.
Cities, towns, fields, road, and river—
Every eye beholds thee over against them,
For thou art the Aton of the day over the earth
Thou art in my heart,
And there is no other that knows thee
Save thy son Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re, 15
For thou hast made him well-versed in thy plans and in thy strength. 16
The world came into being by thy hand,
According as thou hast made them.
When thou hast risen they live,
When thou settest they die.
Thou art lifetime thy own self,
For one lives (only) through thee.
Eyes are (fixed) on beauty until thou settest.
All work is laid aside when thou settest in the west.
(But) when (thou) risest (again),
[Everything is] made to flourish for the king,…
Since thou didst found the earth
And raise them up for thy son,
Who came forth from thy body:
the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, … Akh-en-
Aton, … and the Chief Wife of the King… Nefert-iti,
living and youthful forever and ever.
photo from N. de G. Davies The Rock Tombs of el Amarna (London, 1908)
* From the context, this continues the idea of Amon as a soothing breeze against more violent winds.
1 As in Breasted, op. cit., 366-70.
2 The Aton had a dogmatic name written within a royal cartouche and including the three old solar deities, Re, Har-of-the-Horizon, and Shu.
3 Akhet-Aton was the name of the capital at Tell el-Amarna.
4 Pun: Ra “Re,” and er-ra “to the end.”
6 c f . Ps. 104:20-21.
7 c f . Ps. 104:22-23.
8 c f. Ps. 104:11-14.
9 c f . Ps. 104:25-26.
10 cf. Ps. 104:24.
11 cf. Ps. 104:27.
12 The Egyptians believed that their Nile came from the waters under the earth, called by them Nun.
13 cf. Ps. 104:6, 10.
14 The rain of foreign countries is like the Nile of rainless Egypt.
15 Even though the hymn was recited by the official Eye, he states that Akh-en-Aton alone knows the Aton.
16 Pharaoh was the official intermediary between the Egyptians and their gods. The Amarna religion did not change this dogma.